Kleptomania
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Kleptomania

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Kleptomania is the inability to resist impulses to steal. The things that are stolen are not needed for personal use. They are also not taken for their monetary value. This is a rare condition.

Causes

The exact cause of kleptomania is unknown. It often occurs with other psychologic disorders. These include:

Frontal Lobe

Frontal lobe

Psychological disorders are sometimes the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. The frontal lobe of the brain is thought to provide impulse control.

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Kleptomania appears to be more common in females than in males. There are no other known risk factors.

Symptoms

Symptoms of kleptomania include all of the following:

  • A repeated inability to resist impulses to steal things that are not of personal value
  • A feeling of relief, gratification, and/or pleasure when stealing things
  • Thefts not committed out of anger or vengeance
  • Lack of a better explanation for the theft, such as another psychologic disorder

Diagnosis

Kleptomania is different from shoplifting or ordinary theft, which is:

  • Deliberate
  • Motivated by the stolen item's usefulness or monetary value
  • The result of a dare, an act of rebellion, or a rite of passage

A psychiatrist or psychologist will diagnose kleptomania when:

  • All of the symptoms of kleptomania are present
  • There is no other, better explanation for repeated thefts
  • Kleptomania is not an excuse for shoplifting or ordinary theft

Treatment

Treatment may include:

Counseling or Therapy

Counseling or therapy may be in a group or one-to-one setting. It is usually aimed at dealing with underlying psychological problems that may be contributing to kleptomania. It may also include:

  • Behavior modification therapy
  • Family therapy

Medications

Drugs used for treatment include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which raise serotonin levels in the brain:
    • Fluoxetine (Prozac, most commonly used)
    • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
    • Paroxetine (Paxil)
    • Sertraline (Zoloft)

    Please Note: On March 22, 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Public Health Advisory that cautions physicians, patients, families, and caregivers of patients with depression to closely monitor both adults and children receiving certain antidepressant medications. The FDA is concerned about the possibility of worsening depression and/or the emergence of suicidal thoughts, especially among children and adolescents at the beginning of treatment, or when there is an increase or decrease in the dose. The medications of concern—mostly SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors)—are: Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Wellbutrin (bupropion), Effexor (venlafaxine), Serzone (nefazodone), and Remeron (mirtazapine). Of these, only Prozac (fluoxetine) is approved for use in children and adolescents for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), and Luvox (fluvoxamine) are approved for use in children and adolescents for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder. For more information, please visit http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/antidepressants/default.htm .

  • Lithium
  • Trazodone (Desyrel, Trialodine)
  • Valproic acid (Depakene, Valproate, Valrelease)

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing kleptomania because the exact cause is not known.

RESOURCES:

American Psychiatric Association
http://www.psych.org

Cleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous (CASA)
http://www.shopliftersanonymous.com

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Psychiatric Association
http://www.cpa-apc.org/

Canadian Psychological Association
http://www.cpa.ca/cpasite/home.asp

References:

The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. Columbia University Press; 2001.

Department of Psychiatry. University of Minnesota Medical School website. Available at: http://www.psychiatry.umn.edu/.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. American Psychiatric Association; 1994.



Last reviewed November 2007 by Ryan Estévez, MD, PhD, MPH

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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